Red Clydeside: A history of the labour movement in Glasgow 1910-1932


Letter from Maxton to fiance, Sissie McCallum, 18 April 1916

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On the 26 March 1916 a large demonstration to oppose the Munitions Act was held at Glasgow Green. Feelings were already running high in the city as two days previously seven CWC shop stewards had been deported to Edinburgh by government authorities. At this demonstration James Maxton, James McDougall and Jack Smith, an anarchist shop steward from Weirs munitions factory, all gave speeches advocating strike action by Glasgow's workers to ensure the non-implementation of the Munitions Act.

Four days later on the 29 March 1916 Maxton along with McDougall and Smith were arrested and charged with sedition. All three men were ordered to be held in Duke Street prison in Glasgow without bail until a date for their trial could be fixed. At the subsequent trial of the three men in Edinburgh on 25 April 1916, Maxton and MacDougall were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and Jack Smith was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Maxton wrote this letter whilst on remand at Duke Street prison in Glasgow to his fiance, Sissie McCallum, whom he married in 1919. The Maxtons had one child, John who was born in 1921. However their son fell seriously ill soon after he was born and remained in need of round the clock care for the first year of his life. This care was provided by his mother and it is thought that sheer physical exertion of nursing her son back to full health was a major contributor in Sissie's premature death in 1923.